Movie Review: How To Train Your Dragon 2

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A young man and his dragon set out to explore the land around their Viking hometown, and are thrust into a fight to protect everything they hold dear.

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Dean DeBlois, 2014

Five years after the events of the first film, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless have become restless. Not content with dragon racing and inventing dragon-friendly improvements for their home town of Berk, they are striking out on their own, exploring the land around them. While out on an expedition, Hiccup and Toothless come across dragon-trapping pirates, and return to Berk with warnings of a dragon of armies led by dangerous pirate Drago Bloodfist (no really) (Djimon Hounsou). While traveling to find Drago and reason with him, the pair instead come across a dragon sanctuary, protected by an enormous alpha dragon and a momentarily mysterious dragon rider. They soon find themselves in the middle of a battle that will test their bond and question how men and dragons can co-exist.
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Oh man, I have so many issues with this movie. Visually, it’s an absolute treat, easily as beautiful as the previous film. The flying scenes are a breathtaking wonder, and the world is fully realised through careful character (and dragon) design and landscapes and architecture reminiscent of its Viking roots. The dragons are still glorious, particularly Toothless, who is just about the cutest dragon every put on screen. Some of the best parts of the movie involve Toothless and another dragon interacting in the background while boring expository dialogue is rattled off in the foreground. The relationship between Hiccup and Toothless continues to enthrall, and keeps the audience hooked throughout the film. Structurally, this film has some issues. There are some second act pacing problems, which is bound to happen when a film tries to juggle as many disparate plot points as this one – Drago, the dragon rider and sanctuary, and the future of Berk are given chunks of time, but the threads don’t pull together for along time and the film lost focus during the sanctuary scene. There’s a lot of repetitive and uninteresting exposition, and a few times the film builds towards tension but doesn’t follow through. Also, the fact that the adults have Scottish accents, the children have American accents, and they’re all Vikings will never not annoy me.
Mostly, though, this film is a celebration of patriarchy. I think my problem with the central theme of the movie can be summed up by a line spoken by one of the three female characters in this movie, which goes something like: “All dragon herds have their Queen, but THIS is their KING! He created all of this for us, and we live under his protection.” The alpha male dragons literally hypnotise all other dragons into doing their bidding, and can use this for good or evil at their choosing. These dragons are paralleled with Hiccup and his father Stoick (Gerard Butler), a traditional alpha male human who rules Berk. The untraditionally beta Hiccup repeatedly expresses a lack of interest in ruling Berk, while his butt-kicking girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera) expresses a desire to lead. She can’t, of course, and is instead kidnapped and saved repeatedly throughout the film (as are both of the other female characters). The dragon rider is introduced as feral, tough, and a leader among the dragons, but once the men come along she is also rescued and then sidelined. Then there’s Ruffnut, who endures constant unwanted attention from two of the village boys, only to then make unwanted advances towards one of the pirates and be saved by both the boys before the end of the film. It’s all so off-putting, and I left the movie with a foul taste in my mouth, wishing I could go back to the days when the only film I’d seen from this franchise was the much better first film.
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